Fresh from Cue Card’s brilliant Haydock success, trainer Colin Tizzard aims to land another major prize with the Hennessy Gold Cup live on Sky Racing 1 on Saturday night.
The bang in-form trainer has sent out 5 winners from just 13 runners in the last 5 days headlined by Cue Card’s dominant Grade 1 success and he looks to have a strong hand in Newbury’s showpiece. Theatre Guide, who races under the same ownership as Cue Card, has an excellent record in this race having finished third in 2013 and second in last year’s renewal behind Smad Place. The nine-year-old has had an identical prep to last season, having warmed up with a solid placed effort in a Listed Handicap Chase at Wetherby for the second year running. His chances are obvious but this is a race that traditionally has been won by an unexposed second season chaser and his stablemate Native River fits the profile perfectly. He was an excellent second in the four mile National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival back in March, where mistakes cost him victory and followed up with an improved jumping performance when winning the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree. Still only a six-year-old he’s open to significant improvement and the Aintree success came with a switch to front-running tactics which suited him well as he had been prone to hitting a flat spot mid-race and this seemed to keep his mind focused. He’s fit from a seasonal reappearance over hurdles at Wetherby where he once again showed a great attitude from the front and finding plenty when coming under serious pressure.
Nicky Henderson has a superb record in this race having won three of the last eleven renewals and has a live hope with Vyta Du Roc who like Native River should also be spot on following a recent spin over hurdles at Aintree, where he finished behind Un Temps Pour Tout. The seven-year-old’s form tailed off towards the end of last season’s campaign but this has always been his best time of year and looked a natural over fences when winning a Grade 2 Novices’ Chase at Ascot in February. He will clash once again with the David Pipe-trained Un Temps Pour Tout who won the Grade 3 Ultima Handicap Chase at this year’s Cheltenham Festival and perhaps was feeling the effects of that success when subsequently well beaten by Native River at Aintree.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Blaklion was third in the same Aintree contest following a brilliant gutsy win in the Grade 1 RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and he too looked to be suffering the effects of a long campaign. Blaklion returned this season in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby where he ran well for a long way before tiring and of course Cue Card, who finished third, has certainly franked the form.
Paul Nicholls has a typically strong team heading to Newbury and he looks to have his best chance with Saphir Du Rheu. He’s a hard horse to weigh up having failed to build on a winning reappearance at Carlisle last campaign but he was fifth in this race last season and he races off a ten pound lower mark this time around. He will be fitter for a placed effort at Ascot and looks very well handicapped if he can find his very best form.
Others to note will be last year’s winner Smad Place who heads here in good heart following a solid Grade 2 fourth at Aintree but is twelve pounds higher this time against unexposed stayers and also Peter Bowen’s Henri Parry Morgan who was very progressive last season including a second behind Native River at Aintree, a race which seems likely to have a big bearing here.